Mossley 0 - 1 Fleetwood Town

I hate football.

Sadly though, the reasons for doing so are exactly the same reasons as to why I love it as well. How many other things in life are there, apart from job applications to local authorities, where being the best on any given day is no guarantee of success? A game of contrasting opposites where it can be unpredictable and yet so predictable at the same time - a paradox that could give even Stephen Hawking a headache if he ever left the lucrative world of quantum physics and cartoon voice overs and took up football punditry. And lets be honest, he'd be able to pronounce players names better than David Pleat.

It's a cruel game and there's no better evidence of it than this match.

With the game barely a minute old Steve Brackenridge forced Fleetwood keeper Danny Hurst into making a superb save to stop his shot from the right wing from creeping under the crossbar, and in doing so set the tone for not only what was to follow in the remaining forty-four minutes of the half but the majority of the game as well.

James Turley becomes the latest player to be denied by Hurst

James Turley was the next Mossley player to be denied by an instinctive save from the Town keeper as they continually pressed the visitors back. For a side with aspirations of making the play-offs, Fleetwood's defence was looking shaky at best and Steve Burke twice created something out of nothing by closing them down as they dithered on the ball. It was from the second of these that the Lilywhites should have taken the lead. Burke blocked Hurst's over casual clearance and the ball fell to the feet of Moyo-Modise on the edge of the six yard box. With the goal at his mercy the Rochdale loanee elicited a large groan from the majority of people inside Seel Park by managing to send his shot very high and very wide. And things weren't about to get any better for Clive.

The latest in a series of photos taken this season for a collection to be entitled 'Tableau of Despair'.

More panic in the Fleetwood area saw an outfield player try and clear the ball with his hand giving the referee no other option but to reward Mossley's efforts with a free shot on goal from twelve yards. What did amaze me though was the cheer that greeted this decision. Had people forgotten what our record is like from the penalty spot?

However, records are there to be broken and with our regular spot-kick missers no longer at the club, M&M stepped up to become the latest player to attempt to break the jinx. Twenty seconds later he was the latest player to have failed to have done so. It was a good save from Hurst but it has to be said that it wasn't the best penalty in the world either. The rebound caused a bit of a scramble but another good chance had gone.

Penalty number... no, I've lost count... of the season fails to hit the back of the net.

With Mossley's relationship with penalties not unlike Superman's to Kryptonite, if we're awarded another penalty in the final five games of the season could we not swap it for a corner or a free-kick just outside the box instead?

For the remainder of the half the bombardment of Park End goal continued and the list of players who came close to breaking the deadlock grew almost by the minute - the fixture rapidly changing from Mossley vs. Fleetwood Town to Mossley vs. Danny Hurst.

A rare moment of first half action for Danny Trueman

The second period had barely begun when Brackenridge went close to bettering his effort at the start of the previous half. After losing his marker at the back post he managed to get a header on target only to see it bounce up off the post and scrambled to safety with Hurst well beaten. As more opportunities flew past the wrong side of the goal posts though the nagging voice in the back of the head that kept saying that Fleetwood were going to pinch it grew increasingly louder. The only good thing was that it didn't smugly say 'I told you so' when Fleetwood did.

Steve Brackenridge's header makes its way towards the goal post.

On the hour mark Danny Trueman was called into making his first save of the game, arching himself backwards to stop a shot (not too dissimilar from Brackenridge's first minute effort) from dropping just under the bar. With their second shot on target, Fleetwood scored.

Immediately following the break-up of the Cooke/Pilkington partnership that had controlled the central midfield for sixty minutes (the former succumbing to injuries accrued over the course of the game), old and unwanted habits came back. Rather than continuing to push Town back and dictate the game we dropped deep, stood off the men in red shirts and in doing so gave Fleetwood an invitation they almost snapped our hands off in accepting.

Enjoying their first unpressurised spell of the game, Fleetwood worked the ball out wide to Milligan on the left who was in turn given time to look up and play a, admittedly brilliant, cross field ball to Brown. With Mossley caught completely flat footed the number eight, who up to this point had been completely anonymous, charged into the box and rolled the ball past Trueman.

As you'd expect, this had a demoralising effect on the home side and for fifteen minutes we looked a beaten side. Instead of pushing for the equaliser Burke and M&M became isolated figures up front as Mossley's new game plan appeared to be to try and hold out for a 1-0 defeat with as many men behind the ball as possible at all times. At a stage of the season where it really is now a case of 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' it was incredibly frustrating to watch a side, who let's not forget spent the majority of the game hanging on desperately to a 0-0 draw, being given every opportunity to make their undeserved lead a more substantial one.

Trueman makes a stop from a second half free-kick.

Thankfully the spirit in evidence in that first hour reappeared with twenty minutes to go and Mossley began to make the 'sea-levellers' sweat again. Chance after chance came and went a regularity that users of public transport in the Mossley can only dream about. When it wasn't the final ball or shot letting us down it was Hurst flying across his goal line to push the ball behind for a corner. I'm almost certain that after this match the biceps and triceps of the Mossley supporters will be looking more toned than they had previously been due to the number of times that hands were placed on the head through disbelief.

Another chance...

Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to the pressure Mossley were exerting is that with quarter of an hour to go Fleetwood started time wasting; Hurst spent two minutes setting up a goal kick, substitutions were marginally quicker than the length of time it takes Jupiter to orbit the Sun and at one point a three on two break in Town's favour was spurned in order to take the ball in to the corner. After two minutes of injury time the final whistle went and for the first time this season a defeat actually felt like a punch to the stomach. I know we've lost by the odd goal a ridiculous number of times this season but this one was gut wrenching - this one was unlucky and unjust.

This may sound harsh but I firmly believe that if the substitution hadn't taken place, Mossley would have had at the very least a point to show for their efforts in this match; there's no question that it was the turning point in the game. I'm sure that if we had the time and money we could get the result overturned in the European Court of Justice but I said way back at the start of this report, football is a cruel game.

As other results fail to go our way and the contour lines on Mossley's map to safety start to grow closer and closer together, the inevitable is starting to look, er... inevitabler(?). If, and that's a big if, we can reproduce the performance from this match in each of our five remaining games then there's still a chance that we could pip Ashton United to the lottery spot of fourth bottom and still be playing Premier Division football next season. On the other, if we'd performed like that in just a few more of the previous thirty six league games this season we might not be in the predicament we are.